JASON SOMERVILLE HEAD OF AERO FW37
In conversation with F1 Racing
Where did you start with designing the FW37?
We have inputs from a number of sources: the regulation changes for 2015, the revised engine from Mercedes and ongoing aero developments specifically aimed at addressing the weaknesses of the FW36. The goal is obviously to make the FW37 a step faster, and we have teams working across all areas of the car to achieve this.
What is an aerodynamicist’s main role?
It varies, but as an example, one person might have a front-wing package they are working on, initially in Computer Aided Design (CAD), which they refine and iterate using our virtual windtunnel (CFD). The most promising aerodynamic surfaces might then be considered from a structural perspective, and, if successful, will be manufactured for windtunnel testing and possible race release. Our processes are relatively efficient, but only a handful of the many components we test make it to the car.
You must have a long schedule for every part involved in the construction of the FW37?
We work to a set of deadlines – aerodynamicists are specialists in refining and perfecting their work, but there is a target date for release of each component. We know the car has to be on the grid for the first race of the year, and that doesn’t change. Everything flows back from there.
What do you make of the new challenges posed by 2015 and the changes in the regs?
The biggest change is another revision to the nose regulations; people can judge for themselves whether they look any more attractive – they certainly look different. The nose change has had knock-on effects to the front wing, front suspension and chassis devices. A less visible change has been the evolution of the Mercedes engine, which has required significant changes to the car’s design. We’ve also spent time exploiting the design freedom from the FW37 rear corner, which is an important area for car performance.
The new nose is more like the FW36 rather than the Mercedes or Ferrari solutions of 2014. Why?
We knew we had a reasonably strong base to work from and we wanted to keep the positive aspects of the previous car. You could decide to adopt a competitor’s nose solution, but you’d need to do that for a very good reason, rather than simply, ‘It’s on car X – let’s go for that.’
Weren’t the new regulations applied to remove the appendages?
The principle was to force the cars to have a low nose via an exclusion box with dimensional limitations, including minimum areas a few millimetres back from the nose tip. Unless the FIA is willing to prescribe the nose and say, ‘race with that’ there’ll always be some freedom. And if you give engineers some freedom, they’ll exploit it to try to find an advantage that suits their car.
Are you ever satisfied? Or does it always feel like a compromise?
It’s hard to be satisfied and one measure of that is how quickly we focus on the next update, and even the next car. We are already starting to put down initial ideas for our 2016 car and that programme kicks off soon. So even before the car has run this year, we are looking at next year’s.